Will the GOP Buy Into Michael Steele’s Fresh Start?

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The RNC, which is meeting later today, has apparently rather prudently decided not to adopt a resolution officially rebranding the Democratic Party the "Democratic Socialist Party" (because all of that worked so well during the election). The main opponent of the move is the party chairman himself, Michael Steele, who has achieved a minor victory by forcing compromise language that will simply "condemn the Democrats' march to socialism." A vast improvement! But Steele's problems aren't over. Today the party will discuss how much authority to give Steele over the RNC's funds, and Steele has threatened to quit if his power is limited. No doubt plenty of people within the party wouldn't mind. Steele's performance has been clumsy from the start, if also wildly entertaining for those without a vested interest in the health and well-being of the GOP. But in an effort to shore up his support, Steele gave a speech yesterday declaring that the party was done looking back at the past, and would emerge with new ideas and take the fight directly to President Obama. Sounds nice, but was it enough?

• Dana Milbank notices that "even as he recommended against looking backward, [Steele] mentioned Ronald Reagan no fewer than three times." And while he claimed the party would "emerge as the party of new ideas," the "main idea of his speech seemed to be that he opposes Democrats." Those in attendance seemed equally unimpressed, letting "many of the applause lines go without a murmur." [Washington Sketch/WP]

• Brian Faughnan actually found that "Steele’s comments seem to have gotten a warm response." He hears that "many committee members are encouraged by progress on the ground," which is why "the anti-Steele crowd is having trouble building support." [Red State]

• Jonathan Allen writes that "many in the party’s circle of decision-makers said that Steele performed well under pressure on Tuesday, and they tried mightily to minimize internal differences that have spilled into public view." [CQ Politics]

• Ben Smith calls it "[a]n interesting, combative speech" that "tuned into what the GOP base wants to hear: Confrontation." [Ben Smith/Politico]

• Allahpundit says it's a "shocker," but Steele "is capable of doing something right!" [Hot Air]

• Mike Madden says Steele "did spin a lovely story out for his fellow Republicans, one that told of a party poised for a comeback. Too bad the polls show that's mostly a fairy tale." But his optimistic tone was necessary because he "needed to persuade the GOP establishment that's he's up to the job" and show that "things were back on track." [War Room/Salon]

• David Corn finds it "a bit unreasonable for [Steele] to say the past is done and the political clock starts now. The folks who screw up the books don't get to say, 'it's time to turn the page.' Nah, the statute of limitations on these misdeeds and mishaps is longer than a few months. By the way, how long did GOPers run against Democrats on Vietnam and HillaryCare?" His speech "will be red meat for GOP leaders. But if this is all he's got, then it shows Steele still has no decent ideas for reviving the party." [CQ Politics]

• Marc Ambinder believes "Steele's biggest hurdle has been his inability to figure out his place in the universe. He is no longer a spokesman for the party; he's the spokesman for the party, and that responsibility carries with it a series of internal checks on what he should say." [Atlantic]

• Mark Silva points out that Steele claimed the GOP wold confront Democrats with "class," but then proceeded to mock Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Tim Geithner, and Barney Frank. [Swamp/Chicago Tribune]

• Chuck Todd and friends write that while Steele's speech was lacking in substance and included "too many clichés, and didn't seem to get into exactly what the Republican Party stands for," Steele's "goal yesterday was [to] assert himself as leader of the party, and he probably took a step forward with these party insiders." But it's a question for Republicans as to why Steele struggled to define what the party stands for. [First Read/MSNBC]